Things were so much easier in 2020 BC (before COVID-19):
“A client wants us to organise a workshop? No problem! We’ve arranged loads of similar events before. We’ll use our experience, follow our tried and tested formula and then tailor the content to meet the specific requirements of this event…”
[Cue a global pandemic shutting down vast swathes of the economy and forcing large areas of the planet into lockdown. The reality of 2020 AC (Anno Coroni) suddenly hits home.]
“… Ah, this is not going to be as easy as we’d imagined! What do we need to do now to make this a success??”
That was basically the internal monologue of Madano’s Healthcare practice leading up to what would become a two-day virtual event for 80 internal stakeholders working in Alzheimer’s disease, with participants scattered around the world from Brazil and Europe to the UAE and Australia. We weren’t entirely sure how we were going to get this one over the line, faced with such unforeseen circumstances and pressures, but we love a challenge, and get it over the line we did! Here are the lessons we learned along the way.
As you can imagine, the event’s virtual setting presented a whole new set of considerations and challenges to overcome, and we wanted to ensure that the event was engaging and fun for everyone sat in their home offices, living rooms, kitchens, and even childhood bedrooms for those who locked down with family!
We began by circulating a survey among participants to help us plan the event in a way that would be of most interest and use to those attending, as well as requesting their current location and time zones (as many people were locked down in areas outside of their offices’ cities!) to help with the scheduling.
The survey also enabled us to determine the type of content attendees would like to be included in the sessions, with a mix of workshops, co-creation, information-sharing and training sessions. In addition, we asked attendees to indicate whose perspectives they would most like to hear – whether neurologists, caregivers and family members of people living with Alzheimer’s, or team members for best-practice examples.
The end result included neurologist and Alzheimer’s specialists’ perspectives for two of the sessions; fortunately, we were blessed with a group of personable, energetic and passionate presenters, so each session produced a lot of interaction and questions from the audience. Making sure your presenters are enthusiastic and able to transmit that enthusiasm to those listening is important for any event, but it’s almost mandatory in a virtual environment.
Another tip that we’d offer is to include an unexpected but relevant addition to your event to surprise attendees and maintain their interest. We did this in the form of a digital illustrator who sat in on the first day’s sessions, producing sketches of each session’s content, and then presented the illustrations back to the audience on the second day. Aside from providing a very creative way to summarise the first day’s discussions for attendees, those illustrations will now be used as a follow-up to produce an infographic tracing a patient’s journey through their condition and the team’s goals to help improve this. A short break for a team scavenger hunt – finding every day items around their homes in the fastest time – also added a very enjoyable element to the second day.
Make it personal!
Prior to the meeting, attendees were asked if they’d be willing to share country-specific experiences at the event (nine agreed) and their personal experiences with the disease (four were willing). We also asked employees to provide a 10-second video clip of themselves stating a pledge they wanted to make for the future – either patient-focused or within the business. These clips were compiled into a video shown at the start and end of the event, and individually hosted on an internal team platform (which we also completely rebranded and reformatted in preparation for the meeting).
Some presentations used videos and photo montages to tell very emotional stories. These poignant personal narratives, of parents and grandparents who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, demonstrated the real passion that this team has to keep patients at the heart of every discussion (and made both the clients and our team shed a few tears!), especially during a meeting otherwise quite focused on expertise and strategy.
Lessons and recommendations
At the end of the meeting, we circulated an evaluation survey to determine what had worked well and identify areas where we could improve future events. We were pleased to discover that all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the meeting had met their expectations in terms of content, was well organised, and the sessions were relevant and useful. Encouragingly, many felt that the virtual format was as effective as if the meeting had been face-to-face, a positive step for the new world we live in.
Our recommendations for similar virtual healthcare events would include sharing more best-practice examples from internal employees, including more time for Q&A sessions and giving plenty of emphasis to the patient and caregiver voice. As the organiser, we would also advise having more sessions that are shorter in length, with more frequent breaks in between (even if only for a few minutes), to allow the audience to refresh and maintain their concentration levels.
And finally, as anyone who’s been working remotely for several months now will tell you, anticipate technology not always working in the way you had planned and try to come up with an alternative for when it does… and when that happens, above all else, keep calm!
After the downturn comes the recovery. At least that’s the theory of how things should pass.
Over the past few months, Government and industry have spoken out on the urgent need for a green recovery based on investment, jobs and growth in the UK’s burgeoning low-carbon sector.
The message has been delivered and Government has sought to get on the front foot by bringing leading industry players around the virtual roundtable in recent weeks to determine what the green recovery should look like and the support mechanisms that need to go into it.
The wider context of the green recovery extends further than a reflex response to the post-COVID-19 world as the Government has promised to level up Britain’s regions, increase productivity, deliver on the many Brexit promises and ultimately create a world-beating net zero economy by 2050.
But like the “57 varieties of Heinz” slogan, green recoveries come in various shapes and sizes.
A case of history repeating?
For seasoned observers, it feels like we’ve been here before, most notably in 2008-2010 when governments first saw the opportunities of renewable energy markets and provided bazooka-like fiscal stimuluses.
The Obama administration provided US$90 billion to promote clean energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This led to a fundamental global restructuring of how renewable energy was financed and developed.
Create the conditions and investment for a market to develop and the ‘invisible hand’ will work its magic, or so the theory goes.
Ten or so years on, it could be argued that this approach has worked as many renewable forms of energy, such as offshore wind and solar, have become developed industries and are moving to a model where they no longer need government support (i.e. “zero-subsidy”).
However, some have argued that the UK fluffed its lines over a decade ago by not being ambitious enough. Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, was quoted recently in Business Green: “The UK did not seize the opportunity to transform its economy for the better when it responded to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.”
With hindsight, it’s easy to conclude that Government failed to deliver a long-term plan for low-carbon technologies to transform the economy.
Now Government has bought into the idea that low-carbon infrastructure and growing industries, such as hydrogen, electric vehicles and retrofitting our building stock, can create jobs and provide a long-term low-carbon economy.
Pressure is also building from a cross-party selection of MPs who, just this week, urged Government to accelerate the transition to net zero to “get the UK on track”.
The idea of a “green industrial revolution” has gained further urgency given the sharpest economic contraction of modern times, as well as rapid global climate change.
As Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg NEF highlighted, we need to remove carbon from our economy at a rate three to seven per cent faster per year than we have been doing in order to meet our Paris commitments.
The post-COVID-19 world has brought a new reality. Months of lockdown have provided obvious benefits. Fewer planes, trains and cars mean cleaner air in our cities. Biodiversity has flourished in many places across the world as humans have retreated. A consensus is emerging for these positive changes to continue.
Importantly, investment continues to pour into renewables and most analysts expect this to carry on, despite the COVID19 pandemic. While the energy sector has been hit hard by COVID-19, the renewables sector is showing remarkable signs of resilience.
How do companies and organisations shape the green recovery?
With Government and MPs making weekly statements about the green recovery, and with public acceptance of renewable energy higher than ever, companies in the energy and environment space will never have a better opportunity to push forward the green agenda.
Government is listening, ministers are keen to deliver, MPs are engaged, and the electorate wants to see the creation of new jobs and industries
The awarding of new funding is being accelerated and made available to companies with new innovations and technologies that progress the low-carbon transition, such as sucking CO² out of the air.
Communications are central to this.
Companies will need to show commitment to the green recovery, showing that they understand the Government’s agenda with a clear strategy and vision, impactful messaging and narrative, and a roadmap on how they are going to deliver, as well as a clear recommendation or ‘ask’ of Government.
One clear lesson is to be bold. Companies can draw on the recent precedent of lockdown lobbying from Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. His free school meals campaign, as my colleague Evan Byrne noted in his excellent blog, was successful because it delivered a simple but uncompromising ‘ask’ to Government.
Know who the key stakeholders are. The shifting sands of the post-COVID-19 world mean that the stakeholders that a company or organisation might have communicated with in the past might not be the same ones who are shaping the green recovery. Take some time to map the stakeholder landscape and find out who the influential stakeholders really are.
And don’t forget to engage the public on this journey. They are also important stakeholders. They influence the influencers.
More broadly, the green recovery isn’t just a reaction to the post-COVID-19 world, it’s an opportunity to commit your business or organisation to creating a better world – a net-zero world. The promise of new jobs is an exciting one.
Those companies that have committed to net zero, with tangible goals and attainable milestones, have been well received by media. Outlandish net-zero commitments will likely be met with scepticism and negativity, just as “greenwashing” has been called out and rejected in the past. The public will want to see proof of progress as well as sincerity.
There is surely no better time to cement the goal of net zero in the public consciousness than now as people demand greater action to protect the environment, with many inspired by the actions of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
With COP26 taking place in Glasgow late next year, it is also an opportunity for companies and organisations to get a head start on their competitors, positioning themselves prominently in an increasingly crowded space. There’s a business imperative to being ahead of the game on net zero.
The signs are there that, this time, the green recovery will be a defining pillar of the UK and other countries’ post-industrial development. The scale of the economic and climate crisis dictates this.
But this will only happen if leading companies and organisations understand the new reality and seize the opportunities that it has provided them.
Madano advises clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning to lower carbon operating models. If you’re interested in learning more, please drop me a line directly at: [email protected]om. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.
Our focus in this edition of the Madano Mindset Series is on some of the communications considerations that will emerge as vast governmental life rafts of support are eased and organisations face up to the future COVID-19 reality.
Click the image below to download the full document.
This week saw Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend Free School Meals. The England striker was the driving force behind a Downing Street U-turn, which means 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals in England will now benefit from a ‘Covid summer food fund’ and will continue to receive Free School Meal vouchers over the summer break.
Obviously the story was eye catching, as it involved a prominent footballer, a Government U-turn and the Health Secretary in a pickle. Looking past the twists and turns of this, there was a slick and well-run campaign that was a masterclass in how to communicate, use social media and engage Government. Here’s why Rashford’s campaign was so successful.
1) Have an ‘ask’
A problem with many celebrity fronted campaigns is they do not have a clear ‘ask’ of Government. Laudable as many of these types of campaigns are, too often they call for ‘action’ or ‘justice’ on something. In short, they identify problems, but don’t offer solutions. Rashford’s campaign was different. It identified a problem (i.e. children on Free School Meals would lose access to them during the summer break), and presented a clear, tangible, and simple to implement solution to Government, and called on Government to act accordingly.
2) Be civil and build broad support
Identifying an issue – and an ask – is one thing, but it’s another to get backing for your cause. It didn’t hurt that Rashford picked an issue that few would oppose, but he built a broad base of support across parliament (and the media) for the cause and won bi-partisan support.
But it was also a campaign of civility. When the Government first said no to the ask, Rashford did not follow up by condemning them or railing against the individual politicians involved with pejoratives, but instead calmly looked to try again, build up further support, and put pressure on the Government. He did this through social media with the hashtag #maketheUturn, an open letter to MPs and coverage in the media. And when the U-turn did come, Rashford was gracious, not gloating.
3) Keep politics out of it
We live in partisan times when it comes to politics. That is the pit fall many campaigns of this type fall into. A celebrity fronted campaign should not end up being a by proxy endorsement for one party or another. Once a campaign picks a side, it risks losing support from the other. Rashford’s campaign was conscious of this. He expressly stated that this campaign was not about politics, calling on MPs to come together for a higher cause, drawing parallels with how Premier League players put rivalry aside when they put on the England shirt.
4) Made good use of his personal story
In campaigns of this nature, a personal story tends to go further than statistics. Rashford was able to speak movingly by outlining his own life experience, and how important Free School Meals where to him, when he was using them ten years prior. By speaking about the importance of the policy to him and his family, he made what he was talking about personal, and therefore real. Campaigns of this nature are always striving to “be authentic”. This one nailed it on the head.
5) Novelty factor
There was undeniably a novelty factor to this campaign. Rashford acknowledged that himself, when he wrote in his Times op-ed on Monday that “ten years ago if someone said I would one day be writing in the Times, I would have laughed”. An England and Manchester United footballer writing an open letter to MPs and calling on the Government to take certain actions is not exactly an everyday occurrence.
But crucially the campaign handled and used the novelty factor well. The campaign knew this would be a ‘front page issue’ and made the best use of this, which enabled the campaign to gain both momentum and support and achieve critical mass quickly. It shouldn’t be underestimated how influential novelty can be in campaigns like these.
So, a big congratulations to Marcus Rashford and his successful campaign, and an outcome we can all get behind. And for any other celebrities looking to front campaigns in the future, you would do well to take a leaf out of Marcus Rashford’s book.
In the UK, wind represents a success story on the path to Net-Zero and one of the greatest opportunities to reach this goal by 2050. Across Europe, wind energy now makes up 15% of the EU’s electricity. Recent months have seen a return for onshore wind being eligible to participate in CfD competitions. The growth of the floating wind market is now central to discussions as a viable alternative to conventional arrays.
However, the reach of COVID-19 will not escape the sector, with supply chains suffering lockdowns and impacts to manufacturing and plunges in forex rates beginning to hamper propositions in the coming months. Organisations will need to communicate their messages clearly, with authenticity and passion to be heard in this post-COVID recovery. Most companies supplying the UK with materials are from outside of the country and are mainly based in Europe and China. In 2019, €19bn was raised for the construction of new wind farms in Europe, 24% less than in 2018. Given the impact of COVID-19, we may have to revise our expectations in the coming years.
I believe though that the wind sector is in good shape despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why.
Further projects are being approved and three major schemes are awaiting Development Consent Orders with the Planning Inspectorate due to confirm decisions by early June of the Thanet Extension, Hornsea 3 and Norfolk Vanguard sites.
However, some stakeholders retain an entrenched position, including US President Donald Trump who maintains the view of a “monstrous” wind project destroying the view of “perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world” (which happens to be his Trump International Links Course). The ensuing legal challenge has resulted in Mr Trump being ordered to pay £250,000 to the Scottish Government.
With new emerging technologies and licencing rounds, developers will need to continue engaging with communities and stakeholders to inform and educate residents around proposals in order to mobilise support and consent for projects. Developers can’t take stakeholder sentiment at a local and national level for granted – authentic and compelling engagements at key stage gates for projects help to bring stakeholders on the journey.
A golden opportunity for the UK
With the Crown Estate launching the next round of the wind leasing competition, we will likely see around 7GW of capacity awarded in new seabed rights. If fully exploited, this would nearly double offshore power output in the UK. This represents more than twice the amount of energy that will be generated by the upcoming Hinkley Point C nuclear plant – enough to power over 6 million homes. Wind is now starting to play an increasing role in each of our daily lives.
With each new project, developers will need to create a clear narrative and benefit case to justify the disruption to the communities around their proposed sites. One impactful way to do this is through virtual reality and rich media content. These methods can create vibrant learning environments that consultation and stakeholder engagement meetings have struggled to achieve.
Innovating to further increase wind’s role in our energy system
Floating wind turbines offer a great opportunity for the UK given its leadership in offshore wind. The UK also needs floating wind given its tough Net-Zero climate targets. Floating wind installations offer greater cost competitiveness than conventional offshore wind arrays with less anchoring or pilling required to stabilise the turbines. Floating wind turbines increase the opportunities for onshore development with greater assembly onshore. These assets’ more mobile nature enables them to be moved further out to sea, where winds are steadier and stronger.
A single deep-sea floating turbine can produce up to 25MW of power per year, nearly seven times that of a traditional offshore turbine. Locating these arrays further out to sea also means that delicate ecosystems close to shore and communities concerned with noise can be better protected. However, there are still constraints around wind speed in highly volatile locations.
Roughly half of the world’s population lives within 125 miles of a coastline, placing demand close to offshore wind production locations. In the UK, the furthest we can be is 70 miles from the coast making short length cable runs for electricity transmission very attractive.
However, as Bruno Geschier, Chairman of the WFO Floating Wind Committee said on a recent Floating Wind webinar, work is still to be done to convince key stakeholders that floating wind is viable.
Geschier laid emphasis on Government Relations, policymaking and ensuring that developers set the right conditions to enable offshore wind to succeed. Engaging with government early, building clear areas of common understanding and then bringing stakeholders along on the journey of a project is key. Clear communications are central to enabling floating wind to achieve its goals.
Therefore, while COVID-19 will prove to be an obstacle to smooth sector growth, the overall prospects for wind in the UK remain positive. Week on week we are seeing developers seeking to mobilise supply chains and plough investment into coastal communities to support major arrays. It will be critical to ensure that the engagement, messaging and public face of these projects ensures support rather than creates voids where opposition can delay and disrupt projects.
Madano advises clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning to lower carbon operating models – if you’re interested in learning more please drop me or the team a line. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.
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